REVIEW: In 1996, the people of Schull, County Cork, on the southwest coast of Ireland, were dismayed to learn that a brutal murder had been committed in their rohe.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a French documentary filmmaker and wife of a wealthy and influential titan of the French film industry. Murder at the cottage: Sophie’s quest for justice (now streaming on Neon) is its story.
Sophie had been visiting Cork since she was a teenager – and while she would always be a stranger, she was also an occasional and beloved resident of the harbor village.
Schull has only 42 permanent residents, with the population increasing by the hundreds during the summer, when “the rich come from England and Dublin”.
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The peninsula on which Schull sits is a wild and beautiful piece of land. It’s no wonder that Sophie loved this place. Anyone with an artistic soul would do it.
In this rich, tragic and still ongoing affair came the Irish writer and filmmaker Jim Sheridan, after a life spent telling the stories of these lands and peoples, with My left foot and In the name of the Father still the most famous.
Sheridan takes a writing class on the history of Sophie and the rich cast of characters around her, one of whom may still have his blood on his hands.
Sheridan cements his friendships with a few locals, most of the time sitting comfortably by the fireplace in the village pub, or walking the hills and coasts that surrounded Sophie’s secluded cottage. Although the case was covered in the more sensationalist Netflix series Sophie: a murder in West Cork, Sheridan’s patience and empathy here reveal a personality and details that the most flashy show could never have been able to.
More stories crop up, new ideas and theories are released, but during this time we know that there is a man who is almost universally regarded as the killer – and he still lives in Ireland, as he avoids the efforts of the French. government to extradite him to stand trial for the murder of Sophie in Paris.
Murder at the cottage is an improbable five-part series. It’s a never-ending story, presented to us by a real filmmaker.
There isn’t much about true crime algorithms that we could describe as poetic or really insightful, but I think this series is. It’s a story told with rare respect for the victim – and a corresponding respect for the grief of the people who are a part of her story. Highly recommended.
Murder at the cottage is now available to stream on Neon.